directed by Stefen FangmeierEragon begins with the story of the destruction of the dragon riders at the hands of the very evil Galbatorix. This is that kind of movie: wicked kings, brave heroes, epic battles, and the whole thing drenched in magic. The land of Alagaesia (am I the only one who thinks that sounds like a brand of painkiller?) suffers under his iron rule, whilst freedom fighters gather in the hills.
Of course, not all of the dragon riders are extinct. An elven woman called Arya has escaped the king after stealing a smooth blue stone, which she magics away before she can be recaptured. And who should find it but Eragon, the humble farm boy with obvious heroic potential.
What follows seems like a hasty run-through of all the usual genre clichés. After the strange stone turns out to be a dragon's egg that soon hatches, Eragon finds his life is in danger. The king sends Durza, a shade (in other words, some kind of demonic wizard), to kill him. Badly overacted by Robert Carlyle, Durza is one of the least nuanced fantasy villains since the Dark Lord Sauron.
Eragon has very little depth, but there's a feeling throughout that there is a whole different story that has been skimmed over and missed out. The relationship between the dragon Saphira (voiced by Rachel Weisz) and Eragon is hinted at but never really explored. Eragon is also helped out by Brom, played by Jeremy Irons, but again their friendship is only roughly sketched out. It's as though the director was too impatient to get to the magic and fighting to spend any time at all dwelling on the characters and their stories.
Fortunately the look of this movie is sumptuous, with plenty of CGI monsters, flashy costumes and epic sets. So some people will probably enjoy its visuals at least.
The ending is particularly full of melodrama, and the sort of heroic or tragic moments you can see coming for miles. One of the major problems of this film is having the distinct feeling that you've seen it all before: it's a traditional fantasy film that's good for entertaining anyone who is too young to recognise how derivative it all is. Anyone else will be disappointed.
Review © Ros Jackson